It’s Time to Tax Car Drivers by the Kilometre

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The RAND Corporation is calling for a new way to tax drivers in the states: by distance traveled. Car drivers may feel like they’re paying too much in taxes already, but the reality is that the costs of maintaining road infrastructure are far greater than revenue from vehicle-specific taxes. In the USA, congress has had to bail out their highway fund from general taxes and in other jurisdictions (like Canada) it’s just accepted that everyone pays for the luxury of drivers. Gas taxes and the like aren’t bringing in enough revenue so RAND suggest drivers pay per kilometre travelled, that way those who the roads the most pay the most to maintain them.

A Vehicle Miles Traveled tax is what it sounds like: a toll that applies wherever you go. Drivers pay by the mile, at a rate that reflects the actual cost of driving. The idea is popular. More than half of states have looked into taxing VMT. The most prominent has been Oregon. In 2006 the state recruited 300 drivers for a pilot program, and outfitted their cars with GPS. For each mile, they pay 1.5 cents. (They are also exempt from paying the state gas tax.)

A VMT tax could tamp down on congestion by adding a few pennies to the per-mile fee during rush hour or when drivers enter city centers. (That second bit is also known as a congestion charge.) To control emissions, gas guzzlers could pay a higher per-mile rate.

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Bacteria Could Eat Oil Spills

In the future, oil spills could be partly cleaned up by bacteria that loves to eat all the dangerous goo in oil.

esearchers have discovered a new strain of bacteria that can produce non-toxic, comparatively inexpensive “rhamnolipids,” and effectively help degrade polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, or PAHs – environmental pollutants that are one of the most harmful aspects of oil spills.

Because of its unique characteristics, this new bacterial strain could be of considerable value in the long-term cleanup of the massive Gulf Coast oil spill, scientists say.

More research to further reduce costs and scale up production would be needed before its commercial use, they added.

The findings on this new bacterial strain that degrades the PAHs in oil and other hydrocarbons were just published in a professional journal, Biotechnology Advances, by researchers from Oregon State University and two collaborating universities in China. OSU is filing for a patent on the discovery.

“PAHs are a widespread group of toxic, carcinogenic and mutagenic compounds, but also one of the biggest concerns about oil spills,” said Xihou Yin, a research assistant professor in the OSU College of Pharmacy.

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Portland Bike Lanes Keep Improving

Portland, Oregon is trying some groovy bike lanes that other cities around the world have implement. It’s always good to see sustainable infrastructure being built, but the really good thing about what Portland is doing is how they communicate their plans to their citizens. Check it out:

On the Right Track from Mayor Sam Adams on Vimeo.

Creating a Bike-Friendly Sustainable Society in the USA

The New York Times has an article about a Oregon congressman who has been promoting bicycling and sustainable living for 20 years. The article goes into his hard work and how what he has been promoting has become really popular.

But Mr. Blumenauer’s goals are larger than putting Americans on two wheels. He seeks to create what he calls a more sustainable society, including wiser use of energy, farming that improves the land rather than degrades it, an end to taxpayer subsidies for unwise development — and a transportation infrastructure that looks beyond the car.

For him, the global financial collapse is “perhaps the best opportunity we will ever see” to build environmental sustainability into the nation’s infrastructure, with urban streetcar systems, bike and pedestrian paths, more efficient energy transmission and conversion of the federal government’s 600,000-vehicle fleet to use alternate fuels.

“These are things that three years ago were unimaginable,” he said. “And if they were imaginable, we could not afford them. Well, now when all the experts agree that we will be lucky if we stabilize the economy in a couple of years, when there is great concern about the consequences of the collapse of the domestic auto producers, gee, these are things that are actually reasonable and affordable.”

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